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April 21, 2015


Genetic fallacy.
Plus, as people mature in any region, they re-evaluate their beliefs at some point. I grew up here, surrounded by Christianity (at least a form of it) but didn't adopt it until college. And lots of people here grew up Christian (at least a form of it) and denied it later. Lots of Musins in the Middle East and Buddhist still farther East practice their religion as a social priority, not because they adhere to its foundational principles in their hearts.

I wonder whether belief in boringly scientific truth is also geographically distributed.

Are there more or fewer flat-earthers in the United States than in Chad?

What about belief in relativity? Where do you think that view has more currency? Nepal or Switzerland?

And what about sacred cow dogmas of 'scientism'?

You think that belief in evolution might also cluster geographically in certain regions?

How about belief in global warming climate change?

It seems so odd that this challenge comes up at the time I'm starting an intensive study of the book of the prophet Jonah. It doesn't matter if you approach the book as historic based or pious allegory, the core message is the same: God's mercy extends beyond physical borders. God deals with a repentant Israel as well as a repentant Assyria.

All religions deal in universals, and guided so, have a missionary aspect. Buddhism began in India and extended into southeast Asia and China. Islam burst from Arabia through northern Africa westward and Indonesia eastward. The premise of the challenge is that we should see more and more purely Shinto-style concepts of religion, a nationalistic faith that confirms nationalistic identity ... and offer no more than that. The picture of a national god may be the mindset of the earliest Old Testament era; that perception of deity has passed.

Even the Old Testament deals with an extension of the faith to the Gentile nations beyond Israel's borders, releasing the people of faith from the ideas of being "children of Abraham" to the wider ideal of "spiritual children of Abraham" by faith in Christ. The realization is the Gospel is a message for all people, to be accepted by few, rejected by many, but offered to all.

The people who cling to the naturalistic notion that religion is a product of geography and culture has to step aside and allow this to happen.

True, all the great faiths proselytize. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity all see no cultural barriers is expanding their fields. It is the work of the individual to examine carefully their proposals and decide, even if that decision ends in "none of the above." But to simply assign these religions to an area of the planet is patently silly.

If God is, then God is to big to be squashed by some theory of sociology.

Spencer nailed it with "genetic fallacy".

To add on, the fact that most people in human history have some kind of religion (or religious inkling) can only be evidence at least neutral to religion. It cannot be dismissive of religion, because both evolution and creation by a god can be used to explain it.

Maybe religious inclinations are like hunger, an evolutionary feature that helps us survive. Or maybe, in the same way that hunger proves there is food, religious inclinations prove their is a supernatural realm. The existence of the inclination itself provides evidence for both sides, and is entirely a function of the worldview of the interpreter of the evidence. As such, using the inclination as proof one way or another is more likely to result in begging the question than anything else.

GK Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" is an excellent book that really dives into the role of religion for humanity, especially from the view of contrasting Christian and non-Christian religions.

This is just one giant genetic fallacy as many have pointed out and is an illogical argument. I think once gently pointing that out, you can begin to build a case for truth.

The challenger is guilty of his own charge. Vis, these phrases:

"From the atheist's perspective..."

"...from my point of view..."

Also the challenger writes, "[I]t is not unreasonable for us to conclude..." without giving the reasons for concluding '...that religions are products of culture and geography, not products of "truth" and "falsehood."' The challenger got those ideas from the philosophical milieu in which he was encultured. It is only reasonable when one starts from the same cultural presuppositions that the challenger starts from. The Christian's contention is that those presuppositions are false. So using those presuppositions to evaluate the Christian method is not reasonable. One needs to evaluate the Christian message from a transcendent view.

The good news is that the Good News is capable of being expressed in nearly all cultural systems we have encountered. That was one of its strengths in the pluralistic Roman empire in the early days of the Church. The unbeliever has no excuse, but that his willing blindness is evident to the believer.

But it is valid to use the old argument that faith in Christ is not a religion. That is to say that "religion" properly understood is man-oriented. Religion is what man does in order to persuade God to give him what he wants. To apply this to Christianity, if we generate within ourselves faith in God, then he is obligated to save us, or make us prosperous, or heal us, etc. But that's not the true Christian message although too many people who call themselves Christians teach it. The true message is God-oriented. It's what God does for us, not based on our own merits, but on his own good pleasure. That's not anyone's cultural truth.

From the Theist's perspective it seems too coincidental that atheism just happens to dominate certain geographic locations and culture (specifically European and American universities, countries dominated by Communism). . . It seems hard not to dismiss atheist's truth claims when, from my point of view, if they had been born into a different homes or attended different schools, they would, most likely be pushing that religion instead. It isn't, therefore, unreasonable for us to assume that their atheism is a product of culture and geography rather than a matter of "science" vs "faith".

There was a point in human history where this might have been a relevant observation. The pagan pantheons of gods and their associated cultus were nationalistic. The gods of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Babylonians were tied to places, peoples, and nations. Marduk was The God of Babylon and his mythical dominance over the pantheon of the heavens justified Babylon's political and military dominance of the lands around it. Some have speculated whether Zeus' overthrow of Chronos was a mythologized retelling of Greece's overthrow of Minoan dominance. It was why the ancient Assyrians moved conquered populations (like the Kingdom of Israel) to new locations to move them away from their local deities.

But with the rise of religions like of Judaism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Greek philosophy, this accusation no longer holds water. All these belief systems posit universal truth claims, indeed their founders specifically sought for truth or a true relationship with the divine in the midst of cultures still steeped in nationalistic pagan religions. The questions is whether they found Truth or not, rather than arrogantly brush their ideas off because they weren't developed by German Enlightenment atheists.

The objection reveals the objector's own ignorance of history, geography, and religions. It also reveals the objector's need for a mirror. It displays a cultural and religious arrogance (they claim they arrived at their atheism as a result of their own search for truth, but no Jew, Sikh, Baha'i, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, et al ever did?) that could only be described as bigotry.

In a way I would say this is sort of true in the case of many religions. However, it is not the case for Christianity. Christianity is a contextualized religion (adapts to the culture) and even though there are nations with larger Christian populations, three hundred years ago this was not so. Christianity just does not fit into this description as it began as a middle-eastern religion, then moved its way into the Roman Empire, then outward towards Europe, etc. It just does not fit in to this category and therefore this argument doesn't hold much water, at least in terms of Christianity, never mind the genetic fallacy.

I guess the argument is basically, "if you were taught different things, you might believe different things." Or, "if you never heard about Jesus you wouldn't believe in Him." Not exactly the thought of the century. I'm certainly grateful for the experiences & opportunities I have had, which have played an important role in the beliefs I hold today. I'm grateful that I did hear about Jesus & I'm grateful for what he's done for me.

I think the important question is not, "what if you believed something else?" it's, "am I right? Have I believed the truth?" If I believed something else, then I would believe something else & the same question would apply; "is it true?"

"it seems too coincidental" isn't an argument. It is speculation.

If someone from another culture is "pushing another religion" this still proves nothing about the veracity of that religion. It just proves culture influences beliefs.

"It's not hard to dismiss" is fluff. This is subjective. Give me some evidence.

Give me an argument that says all religions actually are products of culture and that would be a fatal mistake because Christianity, when honestly examined, originated in a culture it overtly assaulted.

The argumentation itself is fluffy at best.

Certainly it is a genetic fallacy. But we must be careful here. Reference to the genesis of a belief against its truth or believability IS NOT not ALWAYS a fallacy. Against materialism or physicalism I would argue that since a belief in materialism has its genesis in matter in motion (our brains) and nothing more, that this therefore discredits, or at least casts great doubt on its reliability. Likewise with all sorts of presuppositional arguments and the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism and the like. Now why is this not a genetic fallacy? Well, because in THIS case we ARE in fact, able to show the connection between where a belief originated and its being reliable or trustworthy. So Loftus COULD use his argument not fallaciously IF he could show that there is some necessary connection between a belief in the truth of Christianity and where it originated. But he has not done so. This I take to be a difficult task. I can see no link whatsoever between where Christianity began or came about and the truths of the beliefs it produces.

It seems like the critical claim [C] in this argument is : "[I]t is hard not to dismiss a religious person's claim that their religion is the truth when it certainly seems, from my point of view, that that same person would be pushing another religion had they been born in a different part of the world."

However, the prior argumentation in the article doesn't seem to sufficiently establish this claim. The author asks us to consider that religions are geographically distributed, and then consider that generally people adhere to the religion that they were brought up in. The author asserts that perhaps 99% of all religious claimants fall into this category, which I will grant for the sake of the argument.

The author expects this point of evidence to establish [C], but this data point does not bear that weight by itself. At most, it establishes the fact that people tend to be lazy about their religious convictions and never think them through critically (this conclusion holds whether you think the true 'religion' is a particular religious view or an atheistic view). This may tell us something interesting about anthropology (that people tend to think like their neighbors do), but it's actually a poor argument for atheism, since this distribution is expected to hold even if a particular religious tradition is the 'true religion.'

Contrarily, if religions were not geographically distributed in this way, but were instead distributed fairly homogeneously, it strikes me that an equally strong case could be made for atheism, since there would seem to be no good reason why a person ought to prefer one religion over another. If, as an American, I had just as good a chance of being raised Hindu as I did Christian, then why would I claim that Christianity is true when people in exactly the same sort of developmental environment came to such radically different conclusions from me.

What would be more useful in establishing [C] would be information about the people who convert from one religion to another, since presumably they would tend to be the people who had thought most deeply about the strengths and weaknesses of their respective religious views, both former and current. Obviously, this leaves out people like myself who never change religions but still have critically engaged with their faith , but this is a systematic bias that would affect our data consistently across the board, and likely not affect our conclusions significantly. If we noted that conversion rates from one religion to another seem to be consistent such that there isn't a clear convergence toward any one religion, or if there were obvious trends such as one particular religion tending to convert to another particular religion, then there would be some basis for asserting [C].

The problem with this line of inquiry is that this undermines the entire reason for asserting [C] in the first place. By establishing [C] we assume that the people who have the most informed opinions on certain religions are those who have changed religions (which makes sense), but the antecedent of [C] is 'you would believe differently if you grew up somewhere else,' when, for the people used to establish [C], the antecedent is demonstrably untrue. For the people who would be subject to [C], their opinion is not the one we'd value, and for the people whose opinions we'd value, none would be subject to the critique from [C] by construction.

The alternative, sadly, is to consider each religion's claims individually rather than being able to categorically sweep religion off the table.

The challenge reveals an appalling lack of knowledge (or intentional omission) about history. Buddhism started with one teacher in northern India. It spread rapidly throughout a culture dominated by Hinduism, but over the centuries, in much of India, Hinduism reasserted itself. But ShaoLin monks took Buddhism to China (dominated at the time by Confusionism), and others south into Siam and Indonesia (largely polytheistic and heavily into ancestor worship). But in all these areas Buddhism became the dominant religious voice.

Zoroaster began teaching his dualistic theology somewhere in what today is Afganistan, and it spread into very pagan Persia.

Christianity started with one teacher in northern Israel. After his death, Christianity spread across the Roman Empire (a pluralistic culture dominated by Stoic philosophy and polytheism) and east into the former Persian empire. Ever since Christianity has spread into non-Christian cultures. It spread from the collapsing Roman Empire into the pagan cultures of Ireland and Brittan, the Germanic tribes of northern Europe, even into the Norse raiders, even as they raided and invaded the recently Christianized civilizations further south. Missionaries took Christianity into every culture around the world, where today it is still a growing religion in cultures where other religions are dominant.

Islam began with one teacher in Arabia and spread aggressively and often by force, a rather unique method, from Spain to Indonesia.

In all these cases, these religions spread into cultures dominated by other religions. And only rarely did those religions spread by conquest. Indeed Christianity is a religion that spread the other direction, the conquerors were converted to the faith of the peoples they dominated. They spread because they answered questions and provided meaning that the religions of those placed didn't. They spread because their arguments won in the marketplace of ideas.

The claim that religions are cultural, and their adherents uncritical, doubt-free drones simply accepting whatever line their parents feed them only shows the claimants own smug belief that he is one of the few who has seen through the lies and figured out the truth about the illusions of the Great Wizard and the "man behind the curtain". The claim seeks to categorically sweep religion off the table as an inherently illegitimate and irrational idea in the marketplace of ideas and leave atheism as the only stall left in the bazaar.

This is how I would approach the conversation.

Me: I would ask them: “what do they mean by that and why they believe that is true?”

(Most people who ask this question have never really thought about the answer, but uses this a defeater)

Ex-believer: They would probably answer:” that people believe the religion that they were taught”

Me: “But is that always true? Do people only believe truths they are taught? Do ever question what they are taught? I fact did you not reject your Christian faith?

Ex-believer: “Sure they do and yes I did?

Me: “but you just told me that people only believe what other people tell them, are saying that is not always true then? And is so why is that?

Ex-believer: “Well it’s because they realize what they were taught was not true?”

Me: “So how did they come to that conclusion?”

Ex-believer: “Well they look at evidence and decide for themselves that it was not true.”

Me: “So can determining truth and evidence separate from culture?”

Ex-believe: “Of course.”

Me: “So if we want to determine the truthfulness of the religion then should we look at the culture or the evidence and facts of the religion itself.”

Ex-believer: “the evidence and facts of the religion”

Me: “Let me ask you another question, Is what we teach is school a product of our culture?

Ex-believer: “ Yes”

Me: “So does that mean we should not trust it, because it is product of the culture?

Ex-believer: “no”

Me: “Why?”

Ex-believer: “ Because most what they teach in school is true.”

Me: “So are you saying that not everything produce in culture is false?”

Ex-believer: “Yes”

Me: “So should we just ignore the truth claims of religion just because they be product of culture? That possibly like information we are taught in school is product of what is true, that religion why also be based on truth. There for should we at least consider the truth claims of religion?

Ex-believer: let me think about this.

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